Six Things to Always Buy at the Thrift Store

Glassware finds at thrift stores

In a previous post, I shared that I have a personal list of things I will never buy at a thrift store, and encouraged you to create one of your own. Knowing that I’m just never going to purchase sheets, shoes, or swimwear gives me more time to hunt for treasures and bargains that I truly love! So today I want to detail six items I believe should always end up in your cart. Each is a household essential you that you will absolutely use, and will save you lots of money, over time.

Baskets-Thrift Store shopping tips

  1. Wicker Baskets. Yes, they seem to crawl out of the woodwork in the lead-up to Easter and spring, but they’re a staple in thrift stores all year long. Many stores have an entire aisle of shelves bursting with every size, shape, and color. I use baskets for home storage in nearly every room and closet of my home, and they make beautiful containers for plants, and for giving gifts. Make sure the one you pick has secure handles, no broken or loose weaving, and is strong/big enough for the use you have in mind. Normally priced between $3.00 and $6.00, it sure beats paying $89.00 for a laundry style basket from West Elm.Thrift Store Vases
  2. Vases. Again, you’ll find an astounding array on thrift store shelves—in glass, wood, metal, stone, and plastic (which I avoid). For just a few dollars each, you can afford a small collection that will work for all of your floral needs. I like to have a few bud vases, an oversized vase for large arrangements, and several clear glass cylinders on hand. If I’m giving a bouquet as a gift, I’ll look for something interesting and unusual that the recipient can keep, reuse, or donate. 
  3. Glassware. We break them. Our family and friends break them. They emerge from the dishwasher with chips or cracks and slip from our hands like oiled fish. But don’t stress about it, because your local thrift store is a goldmine of replacements. A nice set of four Marquis Waterford whiskey/old fashioned tumblers cost over $40.00 on Amazon, but I’ve found the same set for $4.00 at the thrift store. Whether I need extra flutes for a champagne toast, regular old water glasses, or a beautiful set of martini glasses to go with a bottle of nice vodka for a friend’s birthday, I can find them all at a price so low it doesn’t matter if they break.
  4. Picture Frames. It’s true that they’re often thrown together in a bin at the thrift store, and that many will have cracked glass and broken frames. But with some patience (be careful not to get cut) and digging, you’ll unearth some true beauties. Look for new ones in the original packaging, from stores like Pottery Barn, IKEA, and Michael’s. Many people receive lovely frames as gifts, only to donate them back because the style or size just doesn’t work. You can find brand new poster frames for a dorm room, shadow boxes for memorabilia or miniature frames to line a shelf or mantle.
  5. Serving platters. Every year as the holidays roll around, I’ll realize I need an extra platter for serving food. Or maybe two. So I head to the thrift store where a large, oval stoneware platter in a lovely shade of ivory is just waiting for me! Especially if it’s heavy and has no cracks or chips—and costs under $5.00—you can bet I’m going to bring it home. This is the time of year to find those amazing vintage ceramic Turkey platters with the turkey design or sweet china platters with a scalloped edge and delicate florals. I like to keep a small stack of interesting ones to use when I give baked goods as a gift. They’re so much more fun than paper or plastic, and the recipient doesn’t have to worry about returning it—it’s part of the package!Gift Wrap-Thrift Store shopping recommendations
  6. Gift Wrap. You might have guessed by now that I love giving gifts! So you won’t be surprised that I purchase my wrapping paper, bows, tags, and gift bags from the thrift store. When I can find a roll of designer paper for .99 cents that’s brand new and bears a price tag of $15.99, I have to stop myself from doing an embarrassing happy dance in the aisle. And if you want to avoid paper and the waste it creates, look for wooden boxes, fabric, or baskets (yep, baskets again!). 

I have dozens of more examples of items to always buy at the thrift store, which I’ll save and share in the future. But hopefully, these six ideas will get you thinking of more household essentials to look for when you’re cruising the thrift store with an empty cart.